SAN FRANCISCO — For the last two months, J.P. Crawford has hit. The shortstop prospect has hit well enough to right his season and enter the conversation about a September promotion to the majors.
So it was interesting to see Crawford in triple-A Lehigh Valley's lineup Sunday as a third baseman. It was his 518th game in the minors and the first time he played a position other than shortstop. The shift had been planned for weeks, the Phillies said. It is not permanent. But it could be how Crawford reaches the majors this September.
"It's just about versatility," Phillies assistant general manager Ned Rice said. "It benefits the player and benefits the team when more guys are able to play multiple positions."
Crawford could also see some time at second base, Rice said. The organization still believes Crawford is a shortstop. The time at a different position, Rice said, is similar to what the Phillies have done with Rhys Hoskins in left field. It is simply a way to find at-bats. Rice called it "a fact-finding mission."
The Phillies may try the same idea with Scott Kingery, the second baseman at Lehigh Valley. Kingery could see time at either shortstop or third base before the minor-league season ends, Rice said.
Crawford, 22, must be added to the 40-man roster this winter. So it is logical that he could receive a call-up this season when Lehigh Valley's season ends. The Phillies do not yet want to move Freddy Galvis from shortstop. Galvis has declared his intentions to start all 162 games there. With Maikel Franco underperforming at third base, Crawford could find some time there.
"We haven't figured out what we're doing in September yet," Rice said. "But it's important for the next few weeks to see how he looks at different places."
Since returning June 20 from a minor groin injury, Crawford has hit .288 with a .386 on-base percentage and .558 slugging percentage. He has 11 homers in those 55 games; his previous high for home runs in an entire season was 11. He had three singles Sunday in his third-base debut.
He is hitting .242 with a .349 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage over the entire season. It has been disappointing, but Crawford's strong finish has altered the narrative.
"You need the talent and readiness to meet an opportunity," Rice said. "The more different places you can play, that increases the odds of an opportunity. If he shows he can play multiple positions well, it makes it easier to fit."